Leptospirosis: risk factors and management challenges in developing countries
Institut Pasteur International Network, Institut Pasteur in New Caledonia, Leptospirosis Research and Expertise Unit, Nouméa, New Caledonia
Abstract: Leptospirosis is a widespread bacterial zoonosis with highest burden in low-income populations living in tropical and subtropical regions, both in urban and in rural environments. Rodents are known as the main reservoir animals, but other mammals may also significantly contribute to human infections in some settings. Clinical presentation of leptospirosis is nonspecific and variable, and most of the early signs and symptoms point to the so-called “acute fever of unknown origin”, a major diagnostic challenge in tropical and subtropical areas. However, leptospirosis can rapidly evolve to life-threatening complications, especially if left untreated. There is a need for good awareness of leptospirosis and rapid antibiotic treatment based on clinical and epidemiological suspicion. Severe leptospirosis cases include renal and/or respiratory failure and shock, necessitating intensive care, also seldom available or with limited capacity. Confirmation of leptospirosis relies on biological diagnosis, which unfortunately uses tricky methods seldom available. This biological confirmation, however, is essential for surveillance and public health purpose. A good knowledge of leptospirosis epidemiology (eg, the reservoir animals involved, the Leptospira strains circulating, the seasonal and geographical patterns, and specific populations at risk) can be achieved through adequate surveillance and diagnosis. This can pave the way to prevention and intervention strategies and in turn alleviate the toll leptospirosis takes on affected populations. Over the past few years, leptospirosis has been increasingly recognized, as the need for multidisciplinary approaches in a One-Health perspective has been acknowledged, raising hope to successfully tackle the challenges of this zoonosis.
Keywords: leptospirosis, epidemiology, public health, treatment, prevention
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